How to Choose A Meditation Teacher Training Program

Are you considering becoming a meditation teacher? With the world moving in the direction of mindfulness and meditation we are in need of highly qualified meditation teachers.  It seems apparent that programs being introduced should have specific requirements and standards, with solid meditation practice retreats; but this is not always the case.

In this blog post we’ll cover five steps or areas to consider when choosing training for meditation teachers.

Step 1:  Credentials

Does the program have an advisory board?  Advisory boards are beneficial since they keep standards and certification criteria in check. Many certification programs are merely survey courses. This means all you have to do is show up for the training, and you’re certified.

While this may be appealing on one level, on another level I bet you’re interested in actually learning something— something meaningful that will help & inspire you be a great teacher. A good program will measure your proficiency at what you’ve learned before certifying you, much like when you were in college or high school. Sometimes this is measured in knowledge via written or oral tests; other times it may be measured in live teaching demonstrations. A good training program for meditation teachers will measure both.

Step 2: Get the “details” of the meditation teacher training program.

Not all meditation teacher training programs are created equal.  And although there are many out there, there are some that are good and some not so good.  There is certainly a glut in quality control and there are a few questions to consider to see if you are getting value for your time and money spent.

Find out if the founder of the program a “practitioner” from a “tradition”?  A popular name?  How many decades of training do they have?  Do they come from a lineage, and if so, which one.  Speak to some of the graduates about the course leader.  A good program will have this available for you whether it is public or private.

These questions are important to ask, since if there is no tradition and lineage the program is “powerless” since traditions are based on practices that have been developed over thousands of years.  This does not advocate that all traditions are equal, but you must look into the foundation of who you will study with and what is the message.  Many times people will say the teacher studied with so and so who is very popular in the media or one of his or her instructors.  Run….fast…. You want to choose a training that has been inspired by a lineage of masters.  These do exist but are perhaps rare.

Make sure there is a blended learning curriculum.   Let’s face it, would you want to go to a surgeon who only learned techniques online and in books?  I would hope not.  There are many programs advertised now to be online only.  This is not optimal if you want to be “true” to yourSelf.  The direct transmission of teaching is ancient.  Modern culture believing that they can replace human contact with a machine is in a “sea of delusion”.    Although this may sound possibly strange, keep in mind that you are a human being. Human beings need relationship and human care.  Therefore,  a solid and sincere “teacher”  training program must have at least one component where there is a gathering.  It may be inconvenient, but it is necessary to honor yourSelf and all of your best intentions.

3:  Find out who teaches the course

You want to actually like your teacher(s) so it is important for you to find out about the teacher or group of teachers that may be teaching.  Teachers should be long standing practitioners not a weekend warrior teacher or a great “entertainer”  who probably does not have any time to practice.  You need a leader to have a solid foundation with complete knowledge when learning and this only comes from someone who is steeped in experience and practice.  

Find out if they are just representing the course advertisement or you will actually get to work with them.  Many times teachers are used to advertise the course, but you only get to hear them in the beginning until you get handed off to one of their students.  Just be aware of these things.

If the teaching faculty have a lot of experience (this does not mean popularity), it’s usually reflected by a higher tuition rate. Conversely, less expensive programs are frequently taught by less experienced teachers. This is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what you’re looking for in a training program. On the other hand, be aware that the material and methods being taught by less experienced faculty will most likely have little basis in real teaching experience.

Regardless, it’s always a good idea to ask about the experience of the teaching faculty when you’re interviewing a program. Ask for the years of teaching experience, the types of certifications held, and when they were certified. There are many start-up teacher training programs out there being taught by teachers certified only a year or two ago. So do your homework and ask the tough questions!

Another consideration is the quality of the instruction. Of course, this is partially influenced by the experience of the instructors. But you’ll also want to consider whether the course has any evaluation components. For example, is the training a survey course, where there is little or no testing confirming the skills and information have been assimilated by the trainee? While this may be appealing because it’s easier, it often doesn’t lead to a good training experience. Are the faculty available for questions outside of the training? And what do graduates say about their experience?

 

Step 4: Consider cost – Navigate your way through the seas of false “profits”.

What is the total investment and are there hidden costs.  There are many options on format.  First if all the format is online, then it would not be a quality program.  You cannot transmit “how to teach” without working with other human beings and having an experience.  Some programs say “all online” but then there are hidden pre-requisites that require you to take many other courses.  

Consider your travel, room and board when comparing prices.

Keep in mind, that price is important,  but not everything.  If you have a quality program – not necessarily celebrity driven- then it is worth investigation and inquiry.

For example, you may see a listing that says Become a Teacher, $1500. The tuition may be listed as a low figure, but add in the costs of certification, and/or residential accommodations & travel, you’ll often end up with a  higher price tag! Be skillful and do the math before you commit. Find out whether there are additional costs for the following:

  • Certification testing (This supports the Quality of a Program)
  • Required workshops or retreats (Excellent programs provide additional trainings)
  • Books (Review these to see if they resonate with your thinking)
  • Renewal Fees (Quality programs want their community of students to stay current and well trained)

Compare the market price for Meditation Teacher Training.  They range from $300 to 10,000. Yes, 10,000 dollars.

Step 5:  Ask “Is the course structure right for me?”  

Most are status quo to meet the popular cultural demands.

Focus on programs that provide practical teaching skills as opposed to theoretical.

In the end there is no easy formula for choosing the right teacher training, and the best advice seasoned teachers and trainers can give is to spend lots of time reflecting on what you need and asking questions of your own teachers and fellow students. Of course you’ll need to investigate costs, location (many trainings are currently all online, but look for one with live practice retreats), and schedule (online self-paced or specific dates)

Ask about supplemental support. High level programs usually include online support such as audios, videos and other useful tools, While it’s not a deal breaker, it’s something to consider as a value-added feature.  And finally, see how long the training has been established.  A well-established program will have a very tailored core curriculum.

The 5 Criteria we (Center for Meditation Science) consider in our training curriculum when analyzing the best practices to teach:

  • The practice of meditation – there are many styles and system of practice so it becomes important to be consistent with repeatable and systematic measures when choosing a format one that is backed by tradition.
  • The state of research on the therapeutic use of meditation practices in healthcare.  The practices incorporating mindfulness, focus, breathing and the use of mantra are clearly utilized in medical and clinical settings. Reviewing the studies and designing a systematic sequence that acknowledges these discoveries gets better results.  
  • The evidence on the efficacy and effectiveness of meditation practices is important when teaching a program.
  • It must be secular. We look at the evidence on the role of effect modifiers for the practice of meditation. This is important to take into consideration when designing a program.  For example, each person has their own background and belief system that certainly affects the experience.
  • The evidence on the physiological and neuropsychological effects of meditation practices is important in the design of a program.  As we know, the person is clearly defined by their individual nervous system – both the central and autonomic branches.
  • The foundation of the meditation practice itself.  A practice  rooted in traditional knowledge passed down through a lineage of masters and not modified in any way to meet “profit” margins will last for centuries because it is based on truth.